A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

The Temples of Angkor

sunny 38 °C
View OE on Gaz n Shaz's travel map.

Up early to go on our temple tour – First stop is Angkor Thom – Bayon. I don’t know why I had expected it to be quiet- but it wasn’t there were people everywhere – kind of felt similar to going to a theme park. Bayon was amazing though – so many serene faces (54 towers and 216 faces) and the detail of all the carvings was amazing. We wondered how many carvers must have been involved in the project – if you could complete one face it was probably a great life achievement. I can’t believe they still let people climb all over them and touch everything – great to see everything up close but kind of feels wrong to be walking over structures that are sooo old. Older than anything we have ever seen before so we are struggling to grasp it. This would have to be the highlight of our day.

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Onto Baphuon, which was mostly closed off to tourists as they are doing conservation work. There are heaps of children everywhere selling (postcards, books, bracelets, musical instruments, fans). They follow you trying to convience you to buy and then they do this heartbreaking little groan – why you no buy? We are going to have to toughen up or we will have even bigger packs than we already have.

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Then over to Phimeanakas with its ridiculously steep steps. Luckily there is a wooden ladder/stairway that has been added so we can get up – still very steep and scary for Shaz. The temperature is 38oC!!!

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Over to walk along the Terrace of the Elephants and it is amazing to think that elephants actually used to walk along here with soldiers on their backs high enough to keep away from the tigers!! We chill out for a bit on the side under a tree and watch all the activity – so many motos, buses and cars go driving by taking tourists back and forth. Little markets and stalls are set up along the road its all go and sooo hot. The wall is covered with carvings of elephants and soldiers on everything from snakes to crabs!

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That is the end of Angkor Thom – we are very impressed!! Onto a temple called Ta Keo where the steps were even steeper than at Phimeanakas! And there were a few tourists who had managed to get up but were struggling to get down again as the width of the steps is about 20cm. Between the heat and the steps we decided to sit in the shade and just admire it from ground level.

Next is Ta Prohm (jungle temple). What an amazing site – huge trees growing on and through the ruins. Gaz is pretty excited that Angelina Jolie had walked in this very spot (Tomb Raider movie was shot here) – I think he thinks that means he has basically meet her :)

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Last stop Angkor Wat – we have timed this well as due to the midday heat not many others are dumb enough to be here and are all in town having lunch – don’t know how as it is way to hot to eat. As it is the Cambodian new years there are heaps of locals visiting the Wat which is pretty cool. They seem to laugh at us a lot – we cant figure out why so laugh and smile with them…. Quite a maze of a building it must of taken some serious planning. This is the newest (constructed mid 12th century) of the Wats but it is still amazing the amount of detail – every wall, roof, piller is carved I can’t imagine how much work is involved. While we are at the top of Angkor Wat (well as far up as we are allowed to go) the loudest thunder we have ever heard rolls in. Really sounds like someone has offended the gods - we hope it wasnt us! We start our way down and the rain starts as we get to the West Gate and onto our Tuk Tuk. But this didn’t mean we were safe from the rain – the skys open up and it bucketed down and we were saturated in seconds – loved every second of it – we were finally cooling down.

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Very tired from our tour so sign up for a hour long foot massage – heaven!

Posted by Gaz n Shaz 22:21 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Cambodia

Welcome to Cambodia

sunny 38 °C
View OE on Gaz n Shaz's travel map.

Onwards to Siem Reap Cambodia. The bus isn’t the VIP trip we were promised its getting the job done and the AC is good. About 5 hours later as we approach the border we stop for lunch. A very unofficial guy jumps on the bus and says hes our guide and will get our visas sorted. Left with very little options we give him the $45 he requested for a $20 visa (do the math, something fishy?) we fill out the forms and give him our passports and he jumps in a ute and off he goes. We weren’t the only ones in this position, it was about 12 of us. Doesn’t make it any less nerve-racking! Much to everyones relief the guy is at the border with our visas and passport. We thought everything was sorted. Just a short walk then back on the bus to Seim reap. Not that easy!

Introducing Scam 1: There is no money machines in Siem Reap, get out all the money you will need (have to get it changed at the border). Luckily we were informed by a travel-savvy bus-mate he was lying so didn’t get any.

Then we hike in 35-40 degrees (yes with 20 kg on our backs) to a holding shed that would defenately be 40 degrees! We are in line here for a very painful hour. It could have been worse however, a girl ahead didn’t get a departure stamp and has to walk back to Thailand to get one then start the process over. Eventually we get our stamps (didn’t even have to pay extra, apparently the officers like a little extra) and on to the next leg of the journey. Remember the VIP bus from Bangkok? It was luxury compared to this bus! The next 6 hours are going to hurt! Apparently with a/c but according to our travel clock, its still a balmy 38 deg.

Scam 1 continues: We are taken to a currency exchange as told that you cant use Bhart in Cambodia and if you use american it will cost more (both turned out to be lies). Decided to change a small amount of our Bhart. Long story short, we got scammed and got a random (lower) amount of Reil. We were very pleased we didn’t get much changed! Welcome to Cambodia, we are going to have to get travel smart quick :)

The one thing worse than the bus was the road! We had heard some stories that the road was rough but apparently it had improved recently. You often hear stories about land mines in Cambodia. I would say most of them were on this road judging by the craters in this dirt road. We stop for dinner at a little road side dinner in the middle of nowhere. These guys have it sweet, 4 more buses pull up while we are there. Food was the worst we have had yet – our first taste of Cambodia wasn’t a good one. Our journey continues for another couple of hours to Seim Reap. Enter Scam 2!

Scam 2: Our bus pulls up at a fairly rough looking guesthouse. The host of the guesthouse gets on the bus and announces they only have enough rooms for half our bus. He asks us to come and look and if we don’t want one the bus will drop us at the bus station, to quote, “it is your freedom to choose, no bother to us”. He also tells us everywhere else is full and we haven’t got a hope of finding accommodation. We have read about this scam in “Lonely Planet” and aren’t convinced. A few people take the rooms but the rest of us say we want to go to the station (about 12 people). Well, “our freedom to choose” goes right out the window. We are now ordered off the bus and told the bus is going nowhere. When faced with such an obvious scam the travellors united, an us vs them mentality set in. We are determined not to stay here so get a cab to town. The scammers soon changed their tune when they realized we weren’t buying it and got us the cab. It was a good call to leave as had heaps of places to choose from, we find a nice place cheap and right in the action! We have probably the best beer of our lives, what a day!

Posted by Gaz n Shaz 22:09 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Thailand

Ayuthaya (former capital city)

sunny 40 °C
View OE on Gaz n Shaz's travel map.

We have decided to dump our bags in storage and head to Ayuthaya (old capital) for the night. We barter in a mix of bart and shop visits and get the Tuk Tuk to the train station for 2 shops (original price 200b). Loving the new currency! One of the tailors even had really good ties so bought gaz one (our first piece of shopping!) was hard to only pick one.
The train north was really interesting. Only a handfull of westerners in amongst all the Thai travelers. Great way to see Thailand. Very interesting to see how some live - a lot of shanties but then some really nice houses.
We picked a guest house from lonely planet and it is a good one. For only 30b ($1) more than Bangkok we have a lovely room of the balcony with two windows! And a lovely big bed and bathroom. The host is a lovely Thai lady who has just been on holiday to NZ – so of course Rotorua!
We like the temples here much better as they are all brick and stone instead of covered with gold as they are in Bangkok. The first temple is amazing as we get to walk all around it and it is in great condition. Then off to an elephant camp where they have 60 elephants but we couldn’t get the answer to what they do with them. Watched a kid (probably about 10 years old) go into the river on the back of a huge elephant for a wash. They actually get the elephant to totally emerge themselves in the rive – was quite a sight and much better than expected. We then went on to see the sun set from Phu Khao Thong – so many steps! But was beautiful. Then on to look at various temples that were lit up in the dark. Quite spooky! One of the hightlights would have to be the statue of a king that won a war that was surrounded by chicken statues- all the Thai people buy them to honour the king. An amazing looking army of roosters :)
Finished off the night with dinner at a night market. We were with two German girls and French guy that were on the Tuk Tuk tour. They stopped at a stall we would never of eaten at – but we have to admit that it was the best Thai food we have every eaten. We are convinced that market stalls is the way to go. Lovely meal and was great to chat with some other travelers.

Back to Bangkok tomorrow - shame as loving the pace here.

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Posted by Gaz n Shaz 00:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand

Khao San rd

sunny 35 °C

We arrived in Bangkok at 1am local time and made our way to Khao San Rd (the backpacker district). My first thought was what have we got ourselves into, it was a dirty stinky hole. We found an ok place to stay and went straight to bed (3am - 31oC). Next morning when we emerged Khoa San Rd was buzzing with tourist and stalls, quite a different sight from the early morning. We had some breakfast, (yes even Gaz ate breakfast) and got our first Tuk Tuk adventure – off to see some Buddha’s. Highlight of the Buddha tour was definitely Shaz letting some caged birds go at big Buddha and the great sign written by the local selling the birds. Tuk Tuks are fun, its probably the best form of transport ever for a city like Bangkok, we have discovered they can be free if you just let them take you to a few shops and you pretend to be interested for a few minutes. We had our first (of many to come) foot massages which ensured that we went to bed early.

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Posted by Gaz n Shaz 19:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Heading Northwards

Brisbane and Sydney

Thanks to family in oz we have had a great start to our adventures with plenty of nice food and a drink or five. Highlights (other than seeing everyone) would have to be Hara's first birthday and mastering our surfing lesson - thanks Shaun (Ingrid's man)! Onwards to Bangkok......

Posted by Gaz n Shaz 19:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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